What’s wrong with being confident?

By Joey Konrad

When you think about your getting your first job, do you often ask yourself what’s next? You know, what’s involved in creating an actual career?

There’s a wide variety of resources available when it comes to the conversation of job interviews and getting started in a career, but there is simply a much smaller discussion out there for negotiating salaries or promotions within your career field, which is just as vital to your career progress.

Besides lack of experience with this discussion, women at work have an additional hurdle of overcoming gender barriers that have employers promoting women by performance, while those same employers are promoting male coworkers based on potential.

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The good news is these barriers are not immovable objects, and can be worked around with a little practice. In 2013, Anett Grant and Amanda Taylor video-recorded interviews of men and women in leadership positions within Fortune 50 companies, and generated a list of strategies for women use to resist sexist attitudes or self-doubt in the workplace and promotional conversations.

They found  that women  constantly self-regulate when talking about their potential and their ideas.  As a result, they hesitate in interviews when responding to questions, which can signal lack of confidence. The men studied would also hesitate—but for less time, and responded confidently to questions asked. Grant and Taylor recommend that women should work on shutting off that regulating voice in their heads, and start responses strong and confident, even at the expense of using “filler words”. Additionally, structuring answers and practicing responses beforehand helps to quiet that regulating voice so you can truly speak your mind.

Grant and Taylor also noted that there was a gender gap in keeping responses succinct. Women would often have longer responses because of multiple hesitations and be perceived as less direct. In fact, on average, women’s answers were longer by almost 30 seconds. The researchers point out that’s enough time for Usain Bolt to win gold in the 100 meter dash—twice.

Further, the researchers argued that women discuss achievement and personal success in abstract terms, which isn’t helpful when communicating with higher-ups that are familiar with traditional promotional language. Taking careful note about the work you have contributed, or creating explicit lists of projects and statistical impacts (i.e. monetary gains) to take credit for provides a much more effective response.

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Lastly, through this study Grant and Taylor found that communication styles between genders were different.  Men were significantly more likely to use first-person nouns like “I” when discussing achievements, while women often used nondescript pronouns like “we.” Using  “I”, “my”, and “mines” show your actual contributions much more effectively.

Does this seem a little overwhelming? You’re not alone. Try making these changes in everyday speech so that you can avoid having to filter them out in a job interview or when asking for a promotion, which would only create more hesitations in your speech.

Self-promotion is not a random ability that some people have while others are just out of luck; it is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and deployed successfully. Beyond the strategies here, look to InformHer staff writer Rebekah Peterson’s article on modesty for more tips!

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